First Reading: Ruth 1:1, 3-6, 14B-16, 22
Once in the time of the judges there was a famine in the land; so a man from Bethlehem of Judah departed with his wife and two sons to reside on the plateau of Moab. Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons, who married Moabite women, one named Orpah, the other Ruth. When they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion died also, and the woman was left with neither her two sons nor her husband. She then made ready to go back from the plateau of Moab because word reached her there that the LORD had visited his people and given them food. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye, but Ruth stayed with her. Naomi said, “See now! Your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her god. Go back after your sister-in-law!” But Ruth said, “Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! For wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” Thus it was that Naomi returned with the Moabite daughter-in-law, Ruth, who accompanied her back from the plateau of Moab. They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 146:5-6AB, 6C-7, 8-9A, 9BC-10
Praise the Lord, my soul! Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD, his God, Who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them. The LORD keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets captives free. The LORD gives sight to the blind. The LORD raises up those who were bowed down; The LORD loves the just. The LORD protects strangers. The fatherless and the widow he sustains, but the way of the wicked he thwarts. The LORD shall reign forever; your God, O Zion, through all generations. Alleluia.
Gospel: Matthew 22:34-40
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law, tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
My beautiful mother birthed ten children, four boys and six girls. By a sure act of Providence, five out of six of those girls were born in a row. This order of siblings created an easy bond of strong friendship for all five girls. Friendship that didn't fail even when life got hard. Through all my heartbreaks, stomach flus, failed tests, failed friendships, and funerals, my sisters were my constant companions. In those difficult times they echoed the words of Ruth, “Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! For wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” Whether it was flowers on a bed side, late night talks, or extra prayers, in my worst moments they were my best friends.
In the First Reading, Naomi had lost her husband and her two sons, but God gave her Ruth's friendship as consolation. True friendship is one of God's greatest gifts. I believe our culture undervalues friendship. We move so fast that our social interactions tend to be shallow and short. As women it's easy to fall into gossip and other vices that can destroy strong friendships, and I personally have lost friends over the years through my own selfishness and pride. Like anything worth fighting for, friendship takes work and real sacrifice but the fruits are eternal. May we take the example of Ruth and Naomi and strive for the great gift of true friendship.
Give a small gift, write a letter, or set up a coffee or phone date with a friend you have not talked to in awhile.
Marie Miller is a singer/songwriter who loves to read old books, drink red wine, and spend time with her very big family. You can find out more about her here.